The Tail of the Wireless LAN

Charlene OHanlon

Dell'Oro Group this week released a report that shows wireless LAN revenues will exceed $7 billion by 2014. Interesting, but when you consider that Dell'Oro believes a good part of that growth will take place in the enterprise, that statistic becomes downright fascinating.

The telecom research firm predicts that enterprise wireless LAN growth will expand more than 100 percent over 2009 numbers, comprising the largest growth segment along with the SOHO crowd. Dell'Oro attributes that growth to many factors, not the least of which is the increasing use of mobility in the workplace.

'The proliferation of Wi-Fi enabled devices and users' desire for constant access are fundamentally changing how network administrators accommodate the devices,' said Loren Shalinsky, senior analyst of Wireless LAN research, in a release about the report. 'The increase in the number of Wi-Fi enabled devices will contribute to growth in all three WLAN market segments, as mobile users want access to the same information, regardless of where they are located.'

The increased use of the iPad and other wireless-only devices in the enterprise brings this notion to bear. Mobile device manufacturers are moving to a model in which wires have no place; even a part-time wired connection would unnecessarily and unfairly tether the user, these device manufacturers seem to believe.

And as more consumer devices proliferate across the enterprise, IT administrators must look for ways to accommodate the devices on the corporate network. Wireless LANs are the most obvious way of ensuring the devices can connect and employees can get access to the information they need. As networks further evolve and even more wireless devices make their way into the corporate infrastructure, wireless LANs will become even more ubiquitous.

In this case, wireless LAN growth is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The mobile workforce-and the devices they use-are forcing the growth.

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Jul 30, 2010 8:07 PM Joel Vincent Joel Vincent  says:
The article is spot on with the conclusion that the proliferation of devices and an increasing mobile workforce are driving growth in the Wireless LAN sector. However, if this growth is not managed effectively, there is a potential for WLAN performance and density issues that can increase cost and complexity for IT departments. Take for an example a recently documented situation with Brandeis University in Waltham Massachusetts. As the user community increased, the IT department followed the recommended workaround for dealing with this growth and increased the number of access points on their network. When they did, they were faced with radio management challenges. The IT group relied on Adaptive Radio Management (ARM) software to address the issues and shift Wi-Fi clients to different channels/frequencies in order to adjust performance and reduce co-channel interference among APs. They found that this dynamic situation caused performance issues at large scale and they were forced to turn off the 'adaptive' setting and manually set the radios and reduce power on some of the APs to avoid contention. This method of �statically� allocating APs further increased the cost and complexity of managing the WLAN and the cost of the complexity was exacerbated as users and devices increase on the network. Their current fear is in line with your story - as Wi-Fi proliferation accelerates, the problems of managing the network and manually tuning only get worse. WLAN solutions based on a virtualized wireless LAN technology pools and optimizes a network of APs together so that they can be treated as one large resource and then allocates the resources to users without manual intervention by network managers. The technique is exactly the same as the one used by storage and server virtualization, in which many physical disk drives or processors are combined and allocated to individual operating systems. The benefits are also the same: economies of scale, reliability through redundancy, and flexibility to allocate capacity on-demand. This allows IT departments scale wireless efforts with the same staff they have today. Reply

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